NFL Draft Review/Grade: AFC South

After reviewing the drafts of each team in the AFC North and AFC East, it´s time to analyze the draft classes of the AFC South. Each team in this division has playoff aspirations for this season; the players selected will be a key role in determining the outcome of this division. Which teams had good drafts? Which teams could have done better? Let´s examine.

Houston Texans

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Photo Cred: The Athletic

Full Draft (With Grade)

Round 1, Pick 23: OT Tytus Howard, Alabama State (C)

Round 2, Pick 54: CB Lonnie Johnson Jr., Kentucky (A-)

Round 2, Pick 55: OT Max Scharping, Northern Illinois (B-)

Round 3, Pick 86: TE Kahale Warring, San Diego State (C)

Round 5, Pick 161: DE Charles Omenihu, Texas (B+)

Round 6, Pick 195: CB Xavier Crawford, Central Michigan (B-)

Round 7, Pick 220: FB Cullen Gillaspia, Texas A&M (B)

Grade: C-

The Texans had one priority heading into the NFL Draft: upgrade an offensive line that allowed 62 sacks last season. They attempted to do so by taking two tackles within the first two rounds, but they did so with the wrong players. Tackle Tytus Howard, whom the team selected with the 23rd overall selection, has the upside to become a starting-caliber tackle, but he’s a project and was pegged by most as a second-round prospect. For a team that needed an offensive lineman ready to contribute immediately, Howard is not a good fit. What the team needed to do was trade up to get tackle Andre Dillard, the best pass protector in this draft class, but they instead waited for him to fall to their pick and watched as the Eagles traded up to snatch him one pick ahead of them. That could turn out to be a major loss for Houston, and even without Dillard, the team would have been better off selecting a more polished lineman such as Cody Ford or Jawaan Taylor.

The other tackle the Texans selected was Max Scharping in the second-round. Like Howard, Sharping is a developmental, small-school prospect; he won’t be ready to contribute right away and was a reach. Kentucky cornerback Lonnie Johnson Jr., on the other hand, is great value in the second-round as a lengthy cornerback with good coverage skills and helps fill a hole in the secondary. In the third round, the team made a puzzling move, taking tight end Kahale Warring. Warring is a solid tight end prospect, but the team already has a deep group of tight ends and doesn’t need any more depth. Since Warring isn’t a can’t miss prospect, this pick seems strange and unnecessary.

Charles Omenihu is a solid pick in the fifth-round; he has the potential to become a starter down the line, even if he currently is very inconsistent. Cornerback Xavier Crawford adds depth to the secondary, but has a very similar profile to Houston’s top corners Bradley Roby and Aaron Colvin, so he isn’t a great fit for them. The Texans didn’t even have a fullback last year, so selecting fullback Cullen Gillaspia may indicate a slight change in the offensive scheme. Otherwise, this is a wasted pick.

The Texans missed out on a great opportunity to upgrade their offensive line. Their draft picks don’t fit their current direction whatsoever; this was a pointless draft for the team outside of selecting Johnson Jr. It’s unclear what the front office was thinking here.

Indianapolis Colts

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Photo Cred: 247 Sports

Full Draft (With Grade)

Round 2, Pick 34: CB Rock Ya-Sin, Temple (B+)

Round 2, Pick 49: DE Ben Banogu, TCU (B)

Round 2, Pick 59: WR Parris Campbell, Ohio State (A)

Round 3, Pick 89: LB Bobby Okereke, Stanford (B)

Round 4, Pick 109: S Khari Willis, Michigan State (C)

Round 5, Pick 144: S Marvell Tell, USC (B)

Round 5, Pick 164: LB EJ Speed, Tarelton State (B-)

Round 6, Pick 199: DE Gerri Green, Mississippi State (B-)

Round 7, Pick 240: T Jackson Barton, Utah (B)

Round 7, Pick 246: C Javon Patterson, Ole Miss (B+)

Grade: B

After a surprising season in which they went 10-6 and made the playoffs, thanks in large part to a stellar rookie class, the Colts attempted to build upon their young core with another strong draft. The team did not have a first-round pick since it traded down from the 26th overall selection to the 49th overall selection, earning an extra 2020 second-round pick, so their first pick didn’t come until the 34th overall pick. With that pick, they selected Temple cornerback Rock Ya-Sin, a physical cornerback who could flourish into an above average starter if developed properly. Luckily for the Colts, they have proven to be amongst the league’s bets with regards to player development; Ya-Sin should become a starting cornerback for them. Still, this wasn’t a no-brainer pick; LSU’s Greedy Williams was still on the board and fits their zone coverage scheme.

Sticking with the second-round, Indianapolis used the 49th overall selection of TCU linebacker Ben Banogu. Banogu is an intriguing prospect since he is an effective pass rusher that played on the defensive line in TCU, but he has the athleticism needed to play linebacker; he should be an important and versatile piece on this defense. With their last second-round pick, the team selected receiver Parris Campbell, a tremendous pickup. Campbell has impressive speed and run after the catch abilities, and gives the Colts the big play/vertical receiver they lacked. The Colts continued to fill holes in the third round; they brought in Stanford linebacker Bobby Okereke to add depth. Okereke is probably a reach in the third round, but I’m not going to completely bash a general manager with the success of drafting that Chris Ballard has, especially since he did add much-needed depth to a position of need.

I will, however, bash the team slightly for trading both of their fourth-round picks to select Michigan State safety Khari Willis. The team already had sufficient safety depth, and although they could use a better starting strong safety, Willis isn’t that, and even if they coveted him, Indianapolis would have been before off waiting for him at one of their two selections. They drafted another defensive back in the fifth-round in Marvin Tell III, who will likely be converted from safety to cornerback. This could be an outstanding pick for the Colts, but if the position change doesn’t go well, it’s pretty much an unnecessary move. EJ Speed adds speed to the defense, hence the name, but he’s definitely a gamble considering he was a relatively unknown prospect. Gerri Green did play at a big school at Mississipi State, but he wasn’t productive despite having Montez Sweat and Jeffrey Simmons on the defensive line; he likely won’t be much at the NFL level. To top it off in the seventh round, the team made the right decision to add offensive line depth with Utah tackle Jackson Barton and Ole Miss center Javon Patterson, with Patterson being probably the more valuable pickup due to is versatility on the offensive line.

This wasn’t a flashy draft for the Colts, especially since they traded down from their first-round pick. However, the middle rounds resemble Ballard’s incredible draft from last season; I’m not going to fault him for using a similar strategy. I like that they built up their defense, which was mediocre last season, but outside of Campbell and Ya-Sin, most of these selections had some risk with them; it would have been nice for Indianapolis to add some high floor players rather than gambling to the extent they did; they could use more immediate contributors to make another playoff run next season.

Jacksonville Jaguars

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Photo Cred: The Athletic

Full Draft (With Grade)

Round 1, Pick 7: OLB Josh Allen, Kentucky (B+)

Round 2, Pick 35: OT Jawaan Taylor, Florida(A+)

Round 3, Pick 69: TE Josh Oliver, San Jose State (C+)

Round 3, Pick 98: LB Quincy Williams, Murray State (D)

Round 5, Pick 140: RB Ryquell Armstead, Temple (B+)

Round 6, Pick 178: QB Gardner Minshew, Washington State (C)

Round 7, Pick 235: DT Dontavious Russell, Auburn (B+)

Grade: B+

The Jaguars came into the draft in an interesting spot at the seventh overall selection. They were prime trade down partners, but if there was a reach made early on in the draft, they knew a marquee player could fall to them. That is exactly what happened, thanks to the Raiders and Giants; linebacker Josh Allen was still on the board. I have no problem with them continuing to bolster their defense by taking the best player available, but Jacksonville runs a 4-3 defensive scheme, and Allen fits best in a 3-4 scheme. Furthermore, Ed Oliver was still on the board at this point, and I thought he made more sense for this defense than Allen. Still, Allen is a high-quality prospect, and getting him with the seventh overall selection was great value for Jacksonville.

Speaking of getting great value, the Jaguars traded up in the second round to select Florida tackle, Jawaan Taylor. Taylor was arguably the most polished tackle in this class; he should be a day-one starter at right tackle, is a superb run blocker, and was a first round talent. In fact, had Jacksonville taken Taylor with their first-round pick, they would have been applauded; adding Taylor and a dynamic defensive player in Allen is incredibly impressive. Round three was not as much of a success for the team; they took tight end Josh Oliver and linebacker Quincy Williams. Oliver is a solid receiving threat and tight end was a hole that needed to be filled, but there were better tight end prospects on the board, including Jace Sternberger. Williams was simply a massive reach; he wasn’t high on draft boards at all. Jacksonville could have easily snatched him up in the fifth round, and even then, there are much larger needs that need to be addressed on this roster than linebacker depth.

The Jaguars don’t know what to expect from Leonard Fournette, who comes with injury concerns and off the field issues. Therefore, adding insurance with Ryquell Armstead makes sense, especially since he complements Fournette since he is more of a third-down running back with good speed and pass blocking. Gardner Minshew in the sixth round was a strange pickup; he’s not better than Cody Kessler, as poor of a quarterback as Kessler is; this was an unnecessary and pointless pick. In the seventh round, to finish off their draft, Jacksonville took defensive tackle Dontavious Russell, who is a big, space-eating presence on the defensive line; that is excellent value in the seventh round.

The Jaguars started out the draft incredible with the selections of Allen and Taylor. However, their third-round picks did make much sense, and even the Allen selection has some questions. Therefore, this wasn’t a flawless draft, although it was a very productive draft.

Tennessee Titans

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Photo Cred: Music City Miracles

Full Draft (With Grade)

Round 1, Pick 19: DT Jeffrey Simmons, Mississippi State (B)

Round 2, Pick 51: WR AJ Brown, Ole Miss (A+)

Round 3, Pick 82: OL Nate Davis, UNC-Charlotte (B)

Round 4, Pick 116: S Armani Hooker, Iowa (A-)

Round 5, Pick 168: EDGE D’Andre Walker, Georgia (A-)

Round 6, Pick 188: LB David Long Jr., West Virginia (B+)

Grade: A-

The Titans were in an interesting situation heading into the NFL Draft. They didn’t have any major holes on their roster, but they don’t have a star. That seems to be what the they team is hoping for with the selection of defensive tackle Jeffrey Simmons. Simmons was considered a concensous top-ten talent due to his polished game as an above avaerage run defender and pass rusher. However, he tore his ACL in Feburary and will likely miss the entire season. Therefore, the immeidate impact of this pick won’t be felt right away, and there is some risk that he will not be the same player once he returns. If he does come back as the same player, though, he could be the star player Tennesee needs.

If there is one area for the the Titans to improve, it’s at wide receiver; Corey Davis and Adam Humphries make out a good, but not great receiving corps. Adding a first-round talent in AJ Brown to completing this group makes a lot of sense. Brown is a sure-handed target, can play in the slot, runs excellent routes, and excels after the catch. These are skills needed to elevate the game of a good, not great quarterback in Marcus Mariota; Brown is an excellent fit. Plus, his willingness to be physical as a run defender in excellent for team considering their desire to build a run-first offense around running back Derrick Henry. The commitment to winning in the trenches could also be seen with the selection of offensive lineman Nate Davis in the third-round. Though Davis isn’t a big-name prospect, he’s versatile, and could start off as the 6th man/swingman type on the offensive trenches, before assuming a starting role down the line.

The Titans also nailed the draft in the later rounds, getting three defensive prospects who were very productive in college: Iowa safety Armani Hooker, Georgia edge rusher D’Andre Walker, and West Virginia linebacker David Long Jr. Hooker will be an excellent piece to these defense as a hybrid linebacker and a run support safety. Walker, meanwhile, showed flashes of excellence in college and has the ideal physical traits to be an effective pass rusher. Long Jr. is undersized, but he was a tackling machine in college, and is well worth the sixth-round investment the Titans made.

The Titans had an excellent draft; they went for Simmons’ high ceiling, and dominated the middle-rounds and back-end of the draft; they found three potential depth pieces at the end of the draft and two important pieces to the offense. If Simmons doesn’t pan out, the depth of this draft class more than makes up for it. If he does, then this is an “A+” draft.

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